OpenStreetMap in Israel and Palestine – ‘Game changer’ or reproducer of contested cartographies?

Beitrag in einer Fachzeitschrift

Details zur Publikation

Autor(en): Bittner C
Zeitschrift: Political Geography
Verlag: Elsevier
Jahr der Veröffentlichung: 2017
Band: 57
Seitenbereich: 34-48
ISSN: 0962-6298


In Israel and Palestine, map-making practices were always entangled with contradictive spatial identities

and imbalanced power resources. Although an Israeli narrative has largely dominated the ‘cartographic

battlefield’, the latest chapter of this story has not been written yet: collaborative forms of web 2.0

cartographies have restructured power relations in mapping practices and challenged traditional monopolies

on map and spatial data production. Thus, we can expect web 2.0 cartographies to be a ‘game

changer’ for cartography in Palestine and Israel. In this paper, I review this assumption with the popular

example of OpenStreetMap (OSM). Following a mixed methods approach, I comparatively analyze the

genesis of OSM in Israel and Palestine. Although nationalist motives do not play a significant role on

either side, it turns out that the project is dominated by Israeli and international mappers, whereas

Palestinians have hardly contributed to OSM. As a result, social fragmentations and imbalances between

Israel and Palestine are largely reproduced through OSM data. Discussing the low involvement of Palestinians,

I argue that OSM's ground truth paradigm might be a watershed for participation. Presumably,

the project's data are less meaningful in some local contexts than in others. Moreover, the seemingly

apolitical approach to map only ‘facts on the ground’ reaffirms present spatio-social order and thus the

power relations behind it. Within a Palestinian narrative, however, many aspects of the factual material

space might appear not as neutral physical objects but as results of suppression, in which case, any

‘accurate’ spatial representation, such as OSM, becomes objectionable.

FAU-Autoren / FAU-Herausgeber

Bittner, Christian
Lehrstuhl für Geographie (Kulturgeographie und Orientforschung)


Bittner, C. (2017). OpenStreetMap in Israel and Palestine – ‘Game changer’ or reproducer of contested cartographies? Political Geography, 57, 34-48.

Bittner, Christian. "OpenStreetMap in Israel and Palestine – ‘Game changer’ or reproducer of contested cartographies?" Political Geography 57 (2017): 34-48.


Zuletzt aktualisiert 2018-18-10 um 01:20